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Day After Disaster: 4 Scenarios to Test Your Basic Survival Medicine Skills

Sara F. Hathaway

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

I thought I’d have a little fun today and walk you through what to do in some scenarios to test your basic survival medicine skills.

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When a Scorpion Sting Turns Deadly

Many scorpion species, including the bark scorpion, glow in the dark if a black light is shined on them.

The bark scorpion likes to live in trees (bark) and hide in woodpiles, under fallen trees, or under your camping bedding.

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

Scorpions make me think of Westerns. Some cowboy is riding a horse in the desert and they cut to a single scorpion in the sand. It symbolizes that this land is rough, rugged, and dangerous. One sting, and you’re dead.

Cut to real life. While you will find most scorpions in the desert, you may also come across them in many Southeastern and Midwestern states. In all but one species in the U.S., the scorpion sting is similar to a bee sting. Yes, you can be allergic, and the reaction can result in death. (See my bee stings post for signs and treatment of this anaphylactic reaction.)

Usually, though, the scorpion sting just hurts. But there is one scorpion here that causes more problems than others: the bark scorpion. Its sting can affect your brain and nerves. Some people are more vulnerable to a bad outcome than others, but there are things you can do if you see the reaction.

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Spring Survival Quiz, Part II: Bites and Stings


by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

We humans are not the only ones who become more active in the spring. This second of my two-part, true/false quiz on surviving the spring is all about bites and stings. The answers are quotes from past posts. It has been said that repetition is the mother of all learning, so why not go back and read the linked posts to refresh your memory.


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6 Home Remedies for Fire Ant Bites

6 Home Remedies for Fire Ant Bites | The Survival Doctor

If you disturb fire ants, they don’t mess around. They attack. Technically they bite and sting. When they bite, they clamp to your skin with their two strong pincers. Because of this it takes a lot of vigorous brushing to get them off. After biting, they sting by swinging their tail to and fro. One biting fire ant can sting you six to eight times.

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

Having grown up in the South, I’ve been bitten enough times by fire ants to pretty well know what’s going on before I see them. I know when I feel that distinctive sting (it’s like being touched with a hot match head … for a long time), I’m going to find a lot of creepy, crawling dots.

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How to Identify a Spider by Its Bite

How to Identify a Spider Bite, by @James Hubbard

A black widow spider, with its tell-tale red hourglass. If you feel pain when the spider bites, this is likely the culprit.

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

I’ve seen a lot of spider bites in my day, and more often than not, the spider is never seen. Over the years I’ve developed several tricks for how to identify the spider by the bite.

There are three types of poisonous spiders in the U.S. The brown recluse is found in the southern two-thirds of the country. It likes to hide in boxes so I often wonder if it doesn’t catch an occasional ride by freight. The hobo spider likes it out west. The black widow has been found in every state but Alaska.

Here are my tips on how to identify a spider bite.

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4 Ways You Can Get Hantavirus

Deer mice are the most common carriers of hantavirus.

Deer mice are the most common carriers of hantavirus.

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

Hantavirus has been in the news lately. Several have died from hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, with as many as ten thousand thought to have been exposed while staying in Yosemite National Park this summer. Rats and mice give it to you, so it’s one of those diseases that’s sure to get more prevalent in any long-term disaster.

Hantavirus was officially discovered after a 1993 outbreak in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah. It’s been around much longer but we just didn’t know what caused it.

That year 48 cases were reported. Since then there have been anywhere from 20 to 46 cases per year. Most are in the Western states, but there have been a few in the Midwest and Northeast, with one in Florida. Since the deer mouse is one of hantavirus’s major carriers, and is found all over the place, hantavirus is a risk anywhere.

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When the Bugs Aren’t Real

Delusional parasitosis: when the bugs aren't real.

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

I never heard of this in medical school, so when I saw my first patient with delusional parasitosis, I was quite bewildered. Here sat a well-dressed, anxious looking guy, scratching all over, who said he scabies and handed me the proof in a tissue. It was a flake of skin.

“And look, Doc. See the bites.” I looked and saw where he’d been scratching—digging and clawing actually—into his skin. But no bugs of any sort.

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Is It Really Scabies? Felt-Tip Markers and Other Diagnostic Tricks

Is it scabies?

Is it a scabies rash?

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

The seven-year itch they used to call it, and if you’ve ever had it, you know the scabies rash itches like crazy—even worse at night.

As with head lice, I see more scabies cases when school starts back. It can also become a problem for shelters, nursing homes, even hospitals. Like head lice, the scabies mite feeds on the human body and likes to jump ship, so to speak, when people are in close contact.

But, in my opinion, tiny scabies mites aren’t as simple to diagnose as the bigger bugs.

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Why Mosquitoes Don’t Like Rain. 6 West Nile Myths, Busted.

biting mosquito

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

I heard on the radio that this summer is going to be a bad one for West Nile virus. They were talking about how many cases some areas have had and how many people have died.

USA Today reports 693 cases and twenty-eight deaths scattered through thirty-two states. Last week alone there were 390 cases and eight deaths. And it’s only going to get worse. For some reason West Nile is usually worst in mid-August through mid-September.

It got me to thinking, if it’s this bad now, how much worse it would be during a disaster. We’d probably be outside more, maybe have holes in the inside walls, probably have more mosquitoes due to stagnant water. Could it be one disaster on top of another?

And, for this year, should you and your kids stay inside? Well, hold on answering until you read my list of myths below.

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How to Check for Head Lice. Step 1: Brace Yourself.

Mayonnaise and plastic for head lice

A nit (egg). Those red spots are eyes. When you check for head lice, the nits look like white dandruff, but they don’t brush off easily.

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

It’s back-to-school time. And soon afterwards, a young child’s rite of passage—the note from the teacher stating your little darling has head lice.

I can hear the collective “but we’re not a nasty family” now. For the umpteenth time, no one—not the teacher nor the principle nor the doctor—thinks you are. It’s not a question of cleanliness.

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